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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A classic example of EU spin

Here's an example of some good old EU spin for you:

The European Commission today announced the results from the latest Eurobarometer poll - carried out in May during the height of the crisis - with a press release carrying the headline,"EU citizens favour stronger European economic governance". 75 percent of Europeans, we are told by the press release, are in favour of giving the EU a stronger role in the coordination of member states' economic and budgetary policies.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding - who also is in charge of Communication - comments:
"The clear majority for enhanced European economic governance shows that people see the EU as a decisive part of the solution to the crisis".
Clearly, something fishy is going in here, not least since only 26 percent of people then go on to say that they consider the EU best placed to deal with the financial and economic crisis.

And sure enough, the Commission is trying to take us for a ride. Respondents to the Eurobarometer survey were only asked whether or not "a stronger coordination of economic and financial policies among all EU member states" would be effective to combat the ongoing crisis (see p. 38 here). The question doesn't even mention the role of the EU or the term "European economic governance". Creatively, the Commission then adds up the respondents who think that stronger coordination would be "very effective" (26 percent) and those who only find it "fairly effective" (49 percent) to reach the 75 percent figure.

Seriously, how stupid do they think we are? By no stretch of the imagination is this the same as 75 percent of Europeans being in favour of giving the EU more powers to monitor national economies, which the Commission is trying to make us believe in its press release.

The Eurobarometer could have asked this question instead: “Do you think that the EU should be given more powers to monitor your country’s economy, including decisions on public spending and taxation?” We suspect the result would have been completely different.

What the Commission really should be focussing on is the troubling fact that only 49 percent of respondents think that EU membership is "a good thing" down from 53 percent last year. Or that the percentage of people who think that EU membership is "a bad thing" has reached its highest level in a decade - now at 18 percent (see p. 12).

What's more, the percentage of people who think that EU membership is a good thing has decreased by 5 percent in France and the Netherlands, for example, and by a striking 10 percent in Germany (down to 50 percent) in only one year. Incidentally, these countries are all net contributors to the EU budget.

Is the Commission getting the hints? We hope so, but somehow doubt it.

Ps. If we were to use the same method as the Commission to support our claims, we could add up respondents who said that EU membership is "a bad thing" with those who said it is "neither good nor bad" (29 percent) to obtain a remarkable 47 percent of "EU non-enthusiasts".


Lylla said...

Very acute observations!

mrsme said...

This is just proof that the Eu needs to be disbanded apart from free trade, which is why it was set up in the first place - not for overpaid, underworked morons to rule every country as they see fit. Get rid of it now before its too late.

C.B.Ross said...

As one who, if I had been asked, would have been one of the 18% who are opposed to the EU, I keep asking "What can be DONE?" Words are all very well but, as the blog itself concludes, the 'powers-that-be' are no more going to change things because of poll results, than are the usual turkeys going to vote for Christmas/Thanksgiving!
Even when national politicians make noises (usually prior to a national election!) that they will take a tougher stance on the EU, the reality proves to be completely different. Blair/Brown promised the British people a referendum on the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty - but reneged on that promise because they could foresee the result. Cameron promised to provide that referendum if he came to power but, while accepting that the situation had indeed changed by the time he did, he has not done anything (of which I am aware) to curb the power-grabbing EU bureaucracy.
I am not one for violent revolution, but I sometimes despair of the efficacy of so-called 'western democracy'.

Anonymous said...

We weren't given a ballot on Lisbon. No doubt we never shall be given a say, other than the Euro-Parliamentary elections.

Is it now time for the bullet?

J. Hancock said...

Who would have thought that when the UK entered the Common Market all those years ago, notice I said Common Market! We joined that we would be a trading partner no more no less!! Now we have an out of control disaster, we are ruled by unelected so called politicians who are paid vast sums of money running a totalitarian state. Each member country has had its own identity eroded away. The books have never been audited since the intial inception of the EU. If this was a private company all these so called politicians would be facing court action for false accounting, but instead the gravy train keeps rolling along, and the sooner this fiasco self implodes the better off we will all be

Rupert Lear said...

The EU is so removed from public opinion that the sooner the UK exits full membership the better. We don't need this extra layer of BS commonly referred to as governance.

Eurocentric said...

You start off with a very good argument: that the Commission shouldn't read into this a public endorsement of economic governance (after all, it hasn't been agreed on or properly defined yet). However, the rest of the post falls into the same trap (and indeed another one altogether as well).

First of all, we don't know what results other questions would have got. Therefore it's a bit ridiculous to imply that theoretical poll questions would provide a firmer basis for action than the vague questions actually asked. Second, the questions you propose are also vague. Try asking "would you like another tax?" in a national setting, devoid of context or a public debate on what the tax is, who it would affect, its pros and cons, and what the consequences on the rest of the budget would be, and then see if you get a answer good enough to base tax policy on. Also, just as economic goverance is too vague at the moment to proclaim support for it, if you asked the question, it will hardly get an informed reply.

As for the Commission having something to "get"; perhaps it has, but it's hard to read anything into the statistics. After all, a sudden drop suggests recent events affected trust, etc. This suggests, but we can't be sure, that the Eurozone crisis, or the handling of the crisis in general is the issue. But whether or not people want more or less integration, more left-wing or right-wing policies, or where disappointed with the hesitant actions of the European Council (or just the result), we can't say.

Which is why I think all this reading into Eurobarometer polls - or other polls, or even theoretical poll questions, for that matter - is an exercise in spin by definition. We simply can't divine the policy stances of the public from such things.

Anonymous said...

Should EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding be in charge of any department, much less communication, if reading the statistics given is such a problem. How can you turn such a negative into a positive? They are obviously up to tricks and believe we, the people who they are so intent on governing, are stupid. They should be listening to the results and believing them. Somehow I don't think they will.

English Pidge said...

The people of the UK must be stupid ("How stupid do they think we are") to let their government give their country away to the EU. If that is not an act of treason, i do not know what is!
English Pidge

Charles Efford said...

After decades of membership it seems that the people of Europe are realising that there is nothing: noble, virtuous or inspiring about the European Union. The recent lavish spending and pay rise proposals are exposing it as just another way for thousands of people to live off the labour of others for their entire lives.

Unknown said...

The EU is the most corrupt and dishonest institution I know. It should be abandoned and let us spend OUR money the way WE want, not given to MEP to squander and get extortinate pensions at the expense of us.

G Matthews

He's Spartacus said...

Classic indeed.

What the press release glosses over is that support for the EU across Europe has plummeted to a nine-year low.

Particularly pleasing, although not in the least surprising, is that the poll shows that British Subjects have the least trust in the EU, with 68% against, only 20% in favour, and 12% indifferent.

Not that the EU Viceroy in Downing Street will take a blind bit of notice.

deLarg said...

I see very little difference between the Mafia and the EU. If you were to ask the hierachy of the Mafia if they were doing a good job they would say 'Yes'. The EU officials are unaccountable to anyone they rob us and no one is able to do anything about it - as with the Mafia. Fortunately within five years the Euro will collapse and within ten years so will the EU.

Paul Cadier said...

With any luck the whole EU experiment will come unstuck on 21 december 2012

Mary Grace said...

As a good European (and a firm believer in the project - the last 60 years have been good and given us peace, prosperity and stronger democracy) I want the UK out of the European Union. We had enough. Please leave - and stay out. Read the Treaty of Lisbon and tell your government to make use of Article 50. Be quick please. I am tired of you and always the same story.

harry L said...

A majority of people in UK want to be out of the EU (polls vary between 53% and 68%). However when it comes to an election people are afraid to change their long-standing support for either Labour or Conservative. UKIP must show that they not a "one trick pony" and develop stronger commitments on economy, education, defence and social development.

Charles Efford said...

Dear Mary Grace,
I would leave in a heartbeat. I firmly believe that, after the few merits and enormous disadvantages of EU membership had been discussed, a British IN/OUT referendum would decisively select the out option. After 37 years of membership, the disciples of Europe in Britain have never made the case for Britain in Europe, because there isn’t one.
They know that Peace has been provided by the nuclear deterrent, plus 250,000 US troops in Germany and 50,000 of the British Army of the Rhine.
Prosperity is a product of the peace; and free trade with the whole world, something that the EU continually obstructs.
As for stronger democracy, the record of the EU continually ignoring referenda is a disgrace, and a denial of democracy, which is compounded by the measures of the Lisbon Treaty which allows the EU Commission to amend the Treaty without further referenda.
The European Commission (EC) can no longer hide that it is an organisation run for the benefit of its operators. This will happen in any organisation that is free of outside control, such as the EC. The EU expands, because it personally benefits the members of the political parties and government bureaucracies that have the power to take a country in and keep it there, by taking many of their members off to new, lavishly rewarded, jobs in the EU and allowing others to get promoted. The reverse process makes leaving unattractive.
The EC is the executive arm of the EU. This tantamount to a company’s policy being decided in admin, instead of by the directors, who are answerable to the shareholders. Free of proper control, the EC grows to serve its operators and their ambitions by expanding its power in every way possible. More than any other organisation the EC is: of the bureaucrats, buy the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats. The EU has a flawed structure, therefore we should never have joined, but our government structure is also flawed because it provides the incentives and disincentives mentioned above.
The EU grows more to resemble the Soviet Union and the Vatican, because they are, or were, all controlled by perpetual bureaucracies with no democratic control.

Bill said...

I was never a supporter of the EU, but recent events have convinced me that the only solution to the extravagant and corrupt behaviour of the politicians and officials is to disband the entire organisation.

Living in Scotland I am governed and administered by four tiers of Government, ie: Edinburgh City Council, the Scottish Parliament, The UK Government and the EU. I was not aware that my meagre pension could support such extravagance.


Joe said...

Even the foundation of the question is foolish. Markets govern economies, unless there is a government trying to expropriate as much of the private good as they can get away with.